For Freelancers Who Need to Make Money Quickly

Help-wanted-out-of-work-businessmanLately it seems like everyone I meet is in a hurry to make big money as a freelance writer.

One writer recently wrote me she needed to know how to make money “on the hurry-up.” Another told me she wanted to know what type of freelance writing to focus on “to quickly earn well.”

Turns out she’d spent a year procrastinating on getting started, and was teetering on bankruptcy.

Yet another proudly announced she recently hit her snapping point with her longtime, six-figure corporate job after her boss refused to give her leave time to care for a dying parent.

She’d walked out! With no plan for what to do next, and apparently, no savings.

Now, she had discovered freelance writing and wanted to know if she could replace that fat income with freelance writing work. Like, now.

It seems like it’s time to discuss realistic expectations for pursuing a freelance writing career.

How long it’s going to take to ramp your freelancing

Just to clear up any misconceptions bouncing around out there, freelance writing is not some easy, short road to riches for anybody who can sling two sentences together.

In fact, I recently saw a freelance-writing coach colleague of mine describe it to one desperate writer as “one of the worst jobs for raising fast cash.” That about sums it up.

Anyone who is getting into freelance writing because they think it is a magical instant cash machine, turn back now.

If you love to write, are willing to write a lot and keep improving, and are willing to write for others about what their audience needs to know — as opposed to whatever you feel like writing about this morning — then this can be a great career for you.

You can earn well at it, but it will generally take time to get there.

How fast you can ramp this is going to depend a lot on you.

A few questions to ask yourself:

Have you run a solo business before?

Do you have a writing portfolio from your day gig or maybe past freelancing that you could put together on a writer website to impress prospects?

How aggressively are you willing to market yourself?

Do you have any past editors or marketing managers who might help you with referrals?

How much free time can you devote to this?

How open are you to getting some training in writing or marketing that might provide a shortcut to earning faster?

How long can you survive on your savings before you will be desperate and have to take any gig?

Would you be willing to work some kind of side job or liquidate assets to support your freelance dreams?

Even an experienced writer with previous business experience isn’t going to instantly earn six figures as a freelance writer. I know writers who variously pumped gas and worked as a bar back while they were getting established.

For instance: I left 12 years of staff writing jobs to freelance in 2005, and I had run a home-based freelance business before as a script typist.

It still took about six months of aggressively beating the street talking to prospects to find good clients and replace my income.

I was lucky to have a modest severance check and unemployment checks to help me get over the hump. We also had a good credit rating and access to more money if we needed it.

If you have no money at all, it will be hard to end up earning well.

Why? You’ll soon need to take any and all freelance gigs you can scrounge up.

You’ll be haunting the Craigslist ads and joining the content mills just to bring in a little cash.

Soon you will discover the ironic formula of freelance life:

The more desperate you are, the less you make

Desperation leads to having to accept poorly paid jobs, which means you must work every waking hour.

It’s hard to make the leap to the pro client level, where payments might take 30-90 days to arrive. Lots of writers tell me they’d love to get off the content mills, but that they couldn’t survive a month or two without that skimpy mill paycheck that comes promptly each week.

You can’t get ahead.

You’ve found some quick, easy money. But it’s not good money. Because if it were easy for freelance writers to earn good money, we’d all be millionaires.

All the low-paid work really kills your self-esteem. Soon, you think you deserve $10 an article.

You can’t even imagine there is good-paying writing work out there.

Even if you believe it’s real, you might have no idea how to find quality clients, or how to tell scams from good offers.

Often, this only leads to quickly going broke and having to go find another day job. Goodbye, dream of independence.

Quick money vs good money

Here’s the basic problem with the “quickly” mentality: In freelancing, as with any startup business, when you take the quick fast buck, it robs you of the time you need to find the big-money assignments and to do those better gigs.

You have to believe in your skills and have financial resources to be able to say “no” to insulting offers. But it’s the key to building a healthy freelance income.

It also means finding out how to identify great clients and market your services to them. And possibly a willingness to find creative ways to make ends meet in the meanwhile.

That’s the quickest way to build your business beyond the starvation level, to earn a healthy, sustainable living as a freelance writer.

What have you done as a writer for some quick cash? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

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70 comments on “For Freelancers Who Need to Make Money Quickly
  1. Jason H says:

    I was wondering… is it feasible to replace my 330 dollars every two weeks starting out. I have a family and I would prefer to do something that allows that. I also want to get away from fast food as I feel completely trapped. I mean I have no idea where to start here and to be honest a pay of .01 cent per word sounds good to me…

  2. Smith says:

    Just remember to lower your prices in the first month or so, to gain as much +feedback as you can, and then raise it. That’s the 1st rule to making money freelancing with using freelance sites.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t agree with that idea, Smith — because it’s often hard to get clients to raise their prices substantially later on. You don’t attract the right type of client with rock-bottom prices.

  3. I’ve slummed in Elance, oDesk, Craigslist, et al, and the one lesson I’ve learned is that the time you waste chasing cheapo gigs there is time you could devote to researching and approaching Grade A clients…or at least Grade B clients who’ll cut your checks promptly and have a steady stream of work.

    It’s a bit more elbow grease than haunting these sites, but getting out and meeting people in the flesh, going to local conferences or chamber of commerce meetings or whatever is available in your area is a great way to develop quality leads, too. Especially with small and mid-sized business that would appreciate a friendly word or two on what constitutes “content” and “social media” and even “copywriting.” Help them out, and you’d be surprised how some of them are willing to pay a premium just to have a friendly, trustable resource on call.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Amen, Michael!

      I think writers discount how much time it’s taking bidding on all those jobs online or reviewing those ads. Meanwhile, thriving startups, mid-sized companies and more are crying out for content development help. If you prospected and found your own clients, you could earn orders of magnitude more.

  4. Sameer says:

    Hi there,

    I would love to earn some money from my writing. I am not a professional writer, but I think I have acumen to write on various topics.

    I have my own blog site.

    I have written 38 articles till date on subjects like sports, politics, travel etc.

    Please do let me know how to go about making some money from my writings. I mean the steps to get started.

    Best Regards
    Sameer recently posted…Tattoos, hairdos and footballersMy Profile

  5. Patrick says:

    When I used to need a quick buck I’d dive into job sites like Elance and Odesk. I used to be on there more often (and actually met one of my favorite regular clients on Elance!), so I’ve built up a decent enough profile that I can manage to snag a couple of quick and dirty projects without *too* much fuss (although it’s still not a sure thing by any means).

    My other “emergency” spot is Craigslist–horror stories abound, but most scams there follow certain patterns so you’ll quickly learn what to watch out for. Again, I was lucky enough to meet one of my regulars there. Low paying, but conscientious with the billing–which is a must when you need to make money fast. Combined, the job sites and Craigslist are usually enough to fill the gaps while I look for other clients.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with getting part-time/temporary jobs. I’ve done that, too!

  6. Hm, maybe it was just me but the title suggested some solutions or resources. Either way, once I read the article I appreciated your opinion and insights into the freelance business. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, that was the idea…this is the message I believe writers seeking a quick buck need to hear. That’s a loser’s game.

      If you really want some solutions on the quick buck: Content mills. They pay fast! But have fun starving.

      • Jose Cervantes says:

        At the moment I am not looking to freelance, just working on writing for my own blog, that already is difficult enough. So I pop over here every now and then to read articles on the topic. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the resources, headline just caught my eye s d steered it in that direction. But I see that it’s a letter to those looking and it’s valuable advice. Thanks for the reply.

  7. Hi, Carol, even with a solid background–MA in writing, many years in PR and journalism–I still began my transition into more freelance writing by:
    1) researching (much of it on your site!),
    2) creating a plan for connecting and marketing, and
    3) building a site for potential clients to visit.
    Also important…setting a timeline for accomplishing certain goals I had set–everything from securing the first client to eventually freelancing full time.
    Anyone considering freelancing should take your list of questions and answer them in detail to start.
    Amanda Cleary Eastep recently posted…Part 2โ€“How to work well with your freelance writerโ€“Constructive feedbackMy Profile

  8. I started freelancing with savings, and a client that had formerly been my employer. That was lucky and gave me the breathing room to learn as I went.

    I can pretty much divide my freelancing career so far into 2 phases:

    1) The beginning/learning phase (year 1) – Teaching myself basic html skills to put together a website, reading and learning all I could about marketing and online writing best practices, figuring out just what I was good at and should offer. I worked with some clients I liked that just didn’t pay enough, and others I didn’t like that paid alright, but I walked away from anyways. My main goals were to build up some experience and enough writing samples to move up and charge more.

    2) The career building phase (year 2) – I’m in the midst of this one. I’ve switched from just trying to build up enough experience, to thinking strategically in terms of a long-term career. That means networking, spending money on professional development (a la Jon Morrow’s guestblogging course), thinking about conferences to attend in the next year and relevant organizations to join. I’m actually not expecting to bring in more money this year than last, because I’m more focused on building to a place in year 3 where I’m much stronger in my knowledge, professional connections, and reputation -in order to be getting closer to where writers like Carol are today.

    Point being, I learned over that first year that if I can think more long term, I’m likely to end up in a much more comfortable and powerful position in the near future than if my primary concern is making as much as possible today.

    Long comment, sorry!
    Kristen Hicks recently posted…How to Make Your Procrastination ProductiveMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Kristen — never apologize for comments! I’m happy to have them.

      I’m wondering why your expectation is you won’t earn more this year. In your situation, I’d have the expectation that investing in that learning will pay off fairly quickly. I usually come home from conferences and immediately make changes that grow my income. It shouldn’t take 3 years to start earning well!

      Those expectations have a way of being self-fulfilling…so I encourage you to try a more bullish expectation and see what hapens. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      You bring up something that I think delays a lot of writers from earning, that you took the time to learn html to build your own website. Why? I think this area wastes a ton of time for many freelance writers. I still don’t know how to do that — hire someone! Even a college kid. If it’s not part of what you plan to offer as a service, don’t spend your time on it. We don’t have to know how to do everything. The goal is to get to supporting yourself as soon as possible. I think learning all about website html is a big detour for many. Yes, it’s great to learn some blogging basics and know how to do a few simple things, but beyond there, why do you need to know? Just focus on writing, I say.

      • Well, that’s just the kind of advice I like to hear! My thinking was that I’d be ramping up time and money spent on professional development, leaving less time for billable hours. But, I wasn’t exactly planning on turning down any promising clients in the meantime, so I probably was thinking too negatively.

        I only learned super basic html, and have been glad to have it on a number of occasions. It seemed much more intimidating than I expected before I started learning it. I think knowing how to fully design a site from scratch would be a waste of time, but knowing some of the basic tags important to SEO, text formatting, etc. is definitely handy.
        Kristen Hicks recently posted…How to Make Your Procrastination ProductiveMy Profile

      • Laura Brooks says:

        The comment about writers taking time to learn HTML and doing their own websites being a sideline just hit home for me. I am in the middle of exactly that process right now, and I find it frustrating. It’s not getting me more clients. It’s not writing of any kind. I am not planning to offer that service. And yet, here I am. Somehow I needed to hear “hire someone”.

        I’m going to find someone to do it now and concentrate on learning the marketing end instead.

        Thanks so much.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Laura, check out my Products I Love tab for several suggestions of companies that could help! I’m a big believer in outsourcing stuff like this, that you don’t really need to know as a writer.

  9. ‘The more desperate you are, the less you make. Desperation leads to having to accept poorly paid jobs, which means you must work every waking hour.’

    I most definitely agree with this point Carol. I was very, very close to falling into this trap when I first started out so know just how easy it can be to fall into. Like you say – unfortunately the outcome of this is not just poorly paid writing gigs but also low self-esteem, which can have an incredibly negative impact on the future of any freelance writer.

    Thanks for another great post – I check in on your site all the time and am always presented with great tips, advice and resources. This bootcamp looks like a particularly good one too!
    Kirsty Stuart recently posted…How to Find Your Purpose as a WriterMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hope to see you there. Rather than “checking in” here now and then, I recommend you subscribe — I send secret freebies out that only my subscribers see…and another one of those valuable free goodies is coming up soon.

  10. Casey says:

    Thank you for writing this post. It’s important advice for anyone starting out as a freelance writer, but it was incredibly valuable to me as well, and I’ve been freelancing for the past two years. Your section on why taking small jobs makes you desperate and convinces you that you’re worth $10/hour jobs was spot on. I have an extensive academic and professional background in writing, and still have fallen into that trip. I’ve woken up and thought, what am I doing? This is not the work I want to be doing and I’m qualified for so much more. But it’s a hard hole to crawl out of once you’ve fallen into it. It’s key to be able to hold out for the clients who pay well and value good work.

    • Carol Tice says:

      So true, Casey — hope you’re coming to the Get Great Clients bootcamp, which starts today! We’ll be talking in great detail on how to identify better clients so you can stop taking the junk jobs.

  11. Di Mace says:

    Oh Carol, you are soooo true! And one of the truest was “…and are willing to write for others about what their audience needs to know โ€” as opposed to whatever you feel like writing about this morning…” For copywriting that is especially true – if you can’t walk in their shoes and tell/sell what they want you to, you won’t have clients for long – a sad fact of the freelancing life.
    Di Mace recently posted…From beast-to-beauty case study series: Newsletter woesMy Profile

  12. Annette says:

    Carol, great article and a timely reality check. When I left my very secure project manager job last year, my friends and colleagues assumed I had made a leap into some sort of fantasy realm of 3-hr workdays and noon time margaritas. I’ve worked harder and longer at freelancing than I ever did at my 9-5 job where I could leave all my cares behind the moment I left the office. Now I find myself always thinking about ways to raise rates or write faster or land better clients.

    I was fortunate enough to have stock options to cash out when I left my job, so I could largely avoid the sort of self-esteem destroying content mills that have snagged other beginning freelancers. I also had a good group of contacts that netted me decent gigs via referrals. However, that only takes you so far. I found myself bemoaning my low number of regular clients while doing zero marketing (which is a bit like complaining about your dating prospects while never leaving your living room). And, now I’m part of the Writer’s Den, working on my website, and getting great tips from wiser and more experienced writers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad the Den is helping you, Annette! And that’s a pretty common story — bemoaning amount/quality of clients while doing zero marketing. Seems like sort of a virus going around… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Annette – I’ve definitely experience the tradeoff of having a job where you’re done at the end of the day/week and can stop thinking about work vs times when I’m working later into the evening or over the weekends to get something done.

      There’s more pressure on when you work for yourself and it’s harder to turn thoughts and concerns about work off. But, it’s an easy tradeoff to accept for me, as it means I can fit in a workout in the mornings and start my day later, travel more because I can take my work with me when I go, and now and then take a hike with my dog in the middle of the day when the weather’s nice.

      It’s definitely not less work, just a different approach to it.
      Kristen Hicks recently posted…How to Make Your Procrastination ProductiveMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        I’m with you, Kristin — it’s about the control of your schedule and your life.

        When my husband was selling cars for Toyota, it was incredible how we could never go anywhere. Summer? Their peak season! We had a Labor Day weekend family camp he couldn’t come with us to because that’s a big sale weekend for cars, which was just horrible.

        Now, I couldn’t imagine ever going back to having to ask a boss’s permission to schedule time off. Given the draconian leave policies of US companies I think it’s amazing there are any employees left.

        Yes, the tradeoff was last night I was still writing a feature article at 9pm that was overdue and it turned into a very long writing day. But that occasional sacrifice hardly makes me want to go back to being an employee!

  13. Karen Cioffi says:

    This is an important reminder, because it’s easy to grab onto anything when there’s not much or zero coming in as a writer. I sometimes feel like it’s feast or famine.
    Karen Cioffi recently posted…Email Marketing – Your Opt in Landing PageMy Profile

  14. Dawn says:

    I wish you had written this post two years ago when I was unemployed and expecting to immediately bring in as much as I had been making at my day job. Boy was that a punch in the gut.

    After licking my wounds, I did the smart thing and went back to a fulltime job. Regrouped and started over. I did a little bit of work for content mills, but realized very quickly that it was a dead-end job. Since then I’ve written a few magazine articles for trades and other midsize publication. I have a magazine article that is out this month, which is a 2000% pay increase over what I received for the same number of words writing for a content mill. It makes me want to kick myself for practically giving away my talent to people who don’t value it.
    Dawn recently posted…Paralegal Today โ€“ January/March 2013My Profile

  15. Way to tell it like it is Carol,

    This is excellent advise.

    You have to stay a head of the game.
    If you’re just getting in the game you have to be in a hurry to work and WAIT.

    The best things always come that way anyway. Fast money, your elders were rght it don’t last. #OldSchoolKnowledge
    Darnell Jackson recently posted…Grow Your Audience for TEN weeks straight. [5M 010]My Profile

  16. I started out with content mills too and it built up my confidence and experience tremendously – as well as teaching me that you *can* actually earn legitimate money online, even if it isn’t a lot. From there I moved to online job boards such as Interact Media and gradually started picking up private clients. My content mill clips were – and still are – a great portfolio for me, because 90% of the private clients I write for don’t even know what a content mill is and they are remarkably impressed to see my byline on eHow ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve just reached the level that I have fully replaced my former B&M income, and it’s taken slightly more than two years to get here. I market mainly through social media and have more work than I can handle. I’m finally able to turn down the low-paying jobs and don’t need the content mills any longer. I still work longer hours than I’d like to for the money I earn, but with 55% growth over 2012 I’m confident that by the end of 2013 I’ll be earning a comfortable salary working 5 days a week.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for offering your real-life story of how long it took you to build your business…and interesting to hear about the mill clips! I do think it’s easier to use those with small businesses than with publications editors.

  17. I’ve read the other comments, and agree with the post itself and empathize with the comments. I’m working on my marketing and attracting great clients, so I look forward to the upcoming bootcamp!
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted…How Do You Define Courage?My Profile

  18. Thanks for this article! I started out on the content mills (just 6 months ago).It was a great start to build my portfolio and get some experience, and also to really learn what sorts of skills are in demand. Some of the clients I got through Elance I still work with. While most on there are low-paying content mills, there are a few diamonds in the rough.

    In response to the ‘quick cash’ point of the whole article, I once came across Mocksa. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but basically I think it is typing out brief answers to searched questions, sort of an Ask Jeeves type of thing (way back when before Google dominated the web-based search). It was definitely easy cash, but such a cheap way to go about it. I never actually went through with that deal, but it just goes to show your point of how desperation can really lead to some poor decision-making which can be detrimental to your self-esteem.
    Alexandra Sheehan recently posted…6 reasons I wonโ€™t move to Washington DCMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m fascinated that you found mills ‘a great start to build your portfolio.’ What portfolio pieces did you get out of mill writing that were useful for getting better clients?

      I’ve worked with so many writers who report to me that their mill clips are useless in getting quality clients. They often only seem to qualify you to do more mill writing…and so on.

      I hadn’t heard of Mocksa…just when you think you know how deep the underworld of freelance writing goes, there’s always another circle of hell to discover. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • For me, the progression towards better paying clients has always been a slow and steady one (and it still is!) The client mill pieces were good for landing individual low-paying clients. Those pieces then helped me to get better paying clients. And so and so forth. I cannot use the content mill pieces any longer, but they were definitely useful in the beginning.
        Alexandra Sheehan recently posted…3 awesome sites to find au pair work abroadMy Profile

      • Mary says:

        I’m doing the same thing. I work a full-time job and have decided to build a side freelance-writing business for extra income. Content mill jobs allow me to build a portfolio with a variety of pieces. The clients get a bargain, true, but that won’t last forever.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Mary, do content mills really allow you to build a portfolio? I work with so many writers who report those clips are nearly useless for getting any better jobs. They certainly don’t impress magazine editors.

  19. LindaH says:

    I’ve dabbled in freelance writing for 20 years. Fortunately, I have another home-run business that does make money now and can lean on that while I’m marketing my freelance. Plus, the clients I meet generate some freelance work–newsletters, blogs–so that helps build my portfolio while I’m earning. But it does take time.

    Until recently after connecting with two accountability buddies, I was floundering. Now, it’s going much smoother and business is building. But it takes time–lots of it–focused on marketing, knowing who I want to approach, knowing how to approach them, and being very professional.

    I’ve never thought freelance writing, or writing in general, was get-rich-quick. Instead, it was a God-given talent I discovered at a young age and have followed since elementary days. It’s what I do and who I am. That matters to me most, to my clients more. And when I get rolling it’s fun, it’s not work.

    Often I reference that actors that comment about making big money doing what they love to do–it’s not work when you do what you enjoy and love doing, and just happen to make money doing it. That’s what I get out of freelance writing. And now that my head’s back on straight after years in Corporate America, I’m ready to roll.
    LindaH recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks โ€” Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Linda — you know, I had a similar setup when I first started freelancing. I had a script-typing business and lived near the movie studios. Then, I just gradually did less typing and more writing until one day, I didn’t have a script-typing business anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I think those of us with a past business have a real leg-up as we’ve already dealt with client management, marketing, and many business basics.

  20. Erica says:

    I started freelancing after being laid off. It was not a amicable parting and I chose to freelance because I was sick and tired of one employer after another holding my career in their untrustworthy hands.

    I knew nothing about freelancing, but I figured it would take a while to ramp up. And I was right. I had some savings and unemployment checks coming in, but I priced too low. It took a lot of time to just get my basics set up. I had to go back to the cubicle for a contract copywriting gig.

    Fortunately, it’s one of the best places I’ve worked, but I still want to freelance fulltime when this ends. So I’m building my savings, taking writing and editing gigs on the side and marketing, marketing, marketing. My freelancing isn’t where I want it to beโ€”yet. But it will be. I’m still committed.

    Freelancing is not a “get rich quick” career. You have to do your homework, know what you’re getting in to and be willing to put yourself out there.
    Erica recently posted…How to Deal with Rejection DayMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sounds like you’re taking a smart approach to it, Erica! And that you’ve got a realistic sense of the freelance life.

      • Erica says:

        Thanks, Carol. And I have to say, I’ve learned a lot from you just by reading this blog. When I no longer have to “cube it,” I’ll definitely be signing up for some of your bootcamps. Until then, thank you for all the knowledge you share here.
        Erica recently posted…How to Deal with Rejection DayMy Profile

  21. On very similar lines to Carol’s post today, here’s a brilliant comment someone recently made on LinkedIn that I want to share with you:

    How to raise your prices at no loss to you:
    1. Run a successful marketing campaign.
    2. Get more customers than you can handle.
    3. Raise prices. Many of your customers will go away. Now, you have a marketing problem.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…Blog vs news? The 3-point checklist to help you chooseMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ha! I’m laughing, but seriously you are describing exactly how I’ve built up my rates over time.

      Just keep doing a lot of marketing, which gives you many prospects to choose from. Pick the best. Keep raising rates. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Of course, you have to know how to identify who a quality client IS so you don’t waste time with scams and losers, and you have to know how to market to top prospects so they want to hire you…which is what the bootcamp is ALL about. Can’t wait to get started on it!

  22. Lital says:

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for writing this article. I agree that there is a great misconception that freelance writing is a way to quickly earn money. I have been freelancing for around one year, and just recently left a content mill I had previously relied on for those weekly paychecks. They paid around $5 per article, albeit promptly most of the time, but the combination of low pay and stress from a few aggressive and inconsiderate staff was too much to consider continuing.

    After a year, and having somehow managed to build a portfolio between content-milling, I am only just beginning to find the opportunities for more creative writing. The fact is, many creative opportunities I have encountered pay very little or nothing at all. From my experience, the result is a person who wants to pursue creative writing has to resort to content-milling to barely scrape by, and the opportunities available are only willing to do so for free.

    There is a truth to the connection between writers and insanity, I believe ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice says:

      The thing is that ‘creative’ writing usually doesn’t pay well unless you hit the novel jackpot.

      Most well-paid writing may employ some creativity, but is in service of a reader and involves reporting facts from experts and not writing whatever you please. I find many writers don’t want to cross over into the good-paying kinds of work.

      But for those who’re up for it, there is a TON of opportunity. For instance, I’m just wrapping up a nearly $6,000 project to write 8 articles, all about the fun-fun topic of shipping and logistics. If you can write tough stuff to make interesting and make it a great read, you will never starve in this line of work.

      • You definitely find the sweet spot of where you interest lies and where the needs are, Carol. I’m learning how, little by little, to do the same. I had a project last week writing a business executive summary for a fun wedding planning company – they desperately needed my professional editing eyes, and I enjoyed the topic.

        There’s a win-win place where I get to explore my interests while helping people with their own goals. I like that, and hope to find a whole lot more of it.
        Crystalee Beck ( recently posted…Ancient grammar issues + giveaway winnerMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          Right on — I think if you’re broad-minded and have a wide range of interests, you can find plenty to amuse yourself.

          Personally, I enjoy a challenge, so that lets me in on quite a few topics! That gauntlet of “see if you can make this boring topic interesting” it just like waving a flag at a bull when I’m around… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Debbie Kane says:

    I’ve been freelancing for 5 1/2 years and I wouldn’t say I’ve earned money “quickly” for my writing. However, my background is public relations and marketing and I’ve taken on the occasional public relations client to boost my overall income. I’ve made money every year I’ve been freelancing — and the last two years I surpassed my former annual salary as a non-profit marketing/development manager (the last “regular” job I held) BUT it took two years, not two months and I’ve been careful about the clients I took on.

    My advice is to create a business plan — set a goal and create a plan for getting there (and if you don’t know how to create a business plan, talk to some of us in the Freelance Writers’ Den or look for organizations in your area that help small businesses and entrepreneurs get started).

    And the benefits of being my own boss, setting my own schedule and choosing my clients far outweigh the higher salary I made years ago in corporate America.
    Debbie Kane recently posted…Thanks for visitingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That is great advice, Debbie!

      I remember when I passed my former full-time salary with freelance income…boy, is that a great feeling! Now I make a multiple more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I love how earning potential is unlimited as a freelancer.

  24. Daniel says:

    It’s not just the writings gigs. It’s the same for web design. I did that and now I’m so burned up and working more like a slave for a customer that doesn’t care about me and seems to want more and more.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, that doesn’t sound good, Daniel! Hoping better clients are coming your way — for anyone in this boat, check out the bootcamp link — it’s all about moving up to quality clients.

    • Kay says:

      Haha I agree! People expect you to suddenly become a subject matter expert in their business, and read their minds, because you can design a website.
      In November, I was getting close to the end of my savings, and fed up with the low budget clients I had who didn’t appreciate my time or talent, or the deal they were getting!
      I fired most of my clients and spent 3 solid months researching the business end of things thru webinars, blogs, LinkedIn groups, and reading everything I could get my eyes on. I realized that I really needed to polish client communication and confidence, so I focused on learning about those aspects.
      I relaunched at the end of January, rebranding and making it clear that I’d instigated a more efficient workflow and tripled my rates (from 20 an hour to 60 an hour, and a basic website went from 250 to 500). I gave myself until March to see improvement.
      Almost right away, I got more prospects than I’d had in the past 6 months. I thought February was just a fluke, but March met my modest goal, and April looks like it will.
      The most surprising thing is that these new “clients” weren’t from any extra or different marketing that I’ve done; it’s been word of mouth from friends and the few good low-paying clients I kept (who suddenly realized they got an amazing deals). I also like my clients better now, and I think they pick up on it now.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Thanks for sharing this great story about earning more!

        So many writers think they can’t raise rates and no one will pay. But in fact, you NEED to charge professional rates, or you’re not going to survive. And there are plenty of clients out there who understand that.

        What many writers miss is at even $100 an hour, you are a TOTAL DEAL for that client compared with hiring a staffer and paying all their fringe benefits. So charge pro rates! You’re worth it.

        • You’re so right, Carol. I love how you spell it out so simply. I’ve been charging $50-60/hr, telling myself I’ll build up to the $100/hour. But I AM a deal, and you help me have the confidence to say that. I’m capable of helping businesses get a great ROI, and my time is valuable.

          Thanks for the confidence boost. You’re the best.
          Crystalee Beck ( recently posted…Ancient grammar issues + giveaway winnerMy Profile

  25. Melissa Weir says:

    Hi Carol and fellow freelancers.

    Let’s face it, this gig is hard. You have to have confidence in yourself regardless of the (many) naysayers who offer “advice.” You have to know a lot about bookkeeping, marketing, customer relationships, building a website. And all that is on top of the skills you need to write! I have to remind myself that I’m on a steep learning curve, made a little bit easier by folks who’ve been down the road before me. But it still takes time.

    In previous entrepreneurial efforts I’ve sold all my belongings (but the bed!), taken temp jobs here and there, and even moved in with my mother for a few months (not recommended). I wish all of that had resulted in a happy ending. But I still failed. And then I was back at jobs that slowly squeezed those golden handcuffs tighter and tighter.

    You have to have some kind of chutzpah to freelance. And bummer, many will fail. But if you can afford to take the baby steps (both financially and emotionally) that will lead to more independence for you and your family, the payoff seems pretty sweet. That’s what I’m hoping.

    Good luck everyone!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Back when I was a starving songwriter, I got overextended at one point and had to move back in with my parents. As you say, not recommended! But it never happened again. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Learned some good lessons about money management from it.

  26. Mike says:

    Thanks for the clarity. As you said, “if it were easy…we’d all be millionaires.” It’s helpful to know what’s possible and what’s probable.
    Mike recently posted…Difficulties Assisted Living Developers Face in Zoning CodesMy Profile

  27. Rob says:

    Since I live in a country where the cost of living is very low, I was able to survive on hideously low paying gigs when I started, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. For a time, I was writing UAWs for less than $10 each (that’s 3 versions of one article for $10 total) to supplement my income because I knew I could count on getting paid for the work.

    I crawled my way up from there, but you’re right — once you get caught up in that world, you “canโ€™t even imagine there is good-paying writing work out there.” I think my saving grace has been the fact that I love writing. Even those stupid UAWs were fun in a way because I had to think up ways to write the same thing in different words. If I hadn’t liked writing and had no other way to make a living, I would have given up.
    Rob recently posted…Why Brevity is Beautiful in WritingMy Profile

  28. Debra Stang says:

    You’re absolutely right that freelance writing is not a get rich quick scheme. I’m looking forward to the boot camp tomorrow so that I can learn more about attracting better clients!

    Debra Stang recently posted…50 Things for the Freelance Writer to Tweet AboutMy Profile

  29. Hi, Carol.

    Thanks for the dose of reality.

    One of the things that has helped me “make it” as a writer is working part-time job. And there are a surprising number of benefits–beyond even the money.

    1) Because the part-time gig guarantees a regular paycheck, it makes the ups and downs of project work much easier to manage psychologically.

    2) Doing an activity other than writing is actually good for me, since it gets me out of the house and interacting with people during the day. Plus, I have actually procured new gigs through connections made at my regular part-time job.

    3) The regular paycheck coming in reduces the desperation factor, and I can turn down those writing gigs that are a slap in the face financially without feeling like I am missing out on revenue, however paltry it may be. Side benefit: self-respect grows.

    4) Somehow, for me, mixing it up in the “real world” working a part-time job increases my self-confidence for business development of my writing services. Not sure why but I know it works that way for me.

    Hope this helps!

    Mitch Bossart

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Mitch —

      I think many freelancers mix in other types of work, especially starting out. It allows you to pick and choose your jobs and build your writing business to a better pay level faster. Taking the desperation out of it is really powerful. Sounds to me like you’ve found an approach that works for you!

  30. Willi Morris says:

    I haven’t done anything for “quick cash,” but this was an important post. Something else happens to you as well: your writing quality goes down, and you begin to become solely focused on where your next paycheck is coming from. I’m experiencing that currently, so I’m still marketing my VA services and took on a part time job. It’s also hard to garner support from loved ones for your passion when you are broke.
    Willi Morris recently posted…Living With Anxiety: When Itโ€™s Okay to Put Up the โ€œClosedโ€ Sign For A WhileMy Profile

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